The dynamic Scotland flanker pips a star-studded field to take the accolade and reaffirm his credentials for a place on this summer's British & Irish Lions tour
Hamish Watson wins Player of the Six Nations award
Scotland flanker Hamish Watson has been named Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship by fans. He is the second Scottish winner following Stuart Hogg’s back-to-back accolades in 2016 and 2017.
More than 125,000 votes were cast – the biggest tally to date – and Watson captured 35% of those to finish ahead of 2020 victor Antoine Dupont (France), Welshmen Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau, and Ireland duo Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne.
The 29-year-old Edinburgh flanker made 67 carries – the second-highest figure behind Ireland’s CJ Stander – and covered 321 metres with ball in hand. Man of the Match against Italy, he scored a try against Ireland and missed just one of his 56 tackle attempts across the tournament. In addition, only four players surpassed his four turnovers.
Perhaps most remarkable of all is that Watson didn’t concede a single penalty in the championship, a fiendishly difficult feat for a specialist ‘fetcher’ at the breakdown.
“He’s been one of our best players for a number of years,” Scotland captain Hogg told the BBC. “But I think in this Six Nations he has really come into his own.
“He hardly missed a tackle. His work-rate is not only in games; during the week he really drives standards, he gets the best out of his body.
“He has been phenomenal for a number of years now and this Six Nations has put him up there with the best sevens, definitely in Britain if not the world.”
Watson’s performances helped Scotland bookend their championship with away wins against England and France. And he has surely cemented his place on the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, four years after he missed out on selection for the trip to New Zealand.
Certainly Gregor Townsend, who is tipped to be part of the Lions coaching team, is unlikely to disagree, having kept Watson on the field for all but 14 minutes of this year’s Six Nations.
The back row is a ferociously competitive area in Lions terms, but Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill believes Watson has earned a call-up.
“He’s been the standout for Scotland,” he said. “He’s been consistently good. He hasn’t just played well one game and then had an average game the next. Hopefully that will put him in a really strong position for the Lions tour. He could not have done any more than he has.”
The six nominees for Player of the Six Nations were chosen by a panel comprising two media representatives from each participating nation. Watson is the third back-row to take the accolade following Welshmen Martyn Williams and Dan Lydiate.
SIX NATIONS PLAYER OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
2004 Gordon D’Arcy Ireland
2005 Martyn Williams Wales
2006 Brian O’Driscoll Ireland
2007 Brian O’Driscoll Ireland
2008 Shane Williams Wales
2009 Brian O’Driscoll Ireland
2010 Tommy Bowe Ireland
2011 Andrea Masi Italy
2012 Dan Lydiate Wales
2013 Leigh Halfpenny Wales
2014 Mike Brown England
2015 Paul O’Connell Ireland
2016 Stuart Hogg Scotland
2017 Stuart Hogg Scotland
2018 Jacob Stockdale Ireland
2019 Alun Wyn Jones Wales
2020 Antoine Dupont France
2021 Hamish Watson Scotland
Accepting his award, Watson told scottishrugby.org: “I’m very surprised, obviously loads of top players were up for the award. It’s full credit to the whole team because without them, boys can’t win these personal accolades.
“The Scotland team we’re all playing in at the moment is a great team and we really believe we can achieve things in the next few years. We think we’re heading in the right direction.”
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